The UK is set to become home to the world's largest automated drone superhighway within the next two years after the government approved plans for 164 miles (265 km) of drone highways. The Skyway project as its known will connect towns and cities, including Cambridge and Reading.
Current laws require drones to be operated by a human pilot, however, Skyway will use new technology to enable automated ‘pilotless’ drones to be flown beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS). Any drone manufacturer will be able to connect a drone’s guidance and communication systems into a virtual superhighway system that handles the safe guidance of drones to their destinations via software integration.
Skyway will be outfitted with ground-based sensors and communication hardware that coordinate with onboard drone sensors to feed air traffic control data to autonomous aircraft as they fly. The system will be managed, appropriately, by an automated traffic management system.
The target date to have drones navigating the Skyway is by mid-2024, but there is one problem that still remains to be tackled. That is the off-Skyway last mile of a drone's trip. Here the project is still coordinating with the UK’s CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to ensure drones that have taken an off-ramp are still operating safely.